Bernie Sanders and Nurses Tell Obama: Embrace Single-Payer Health Care
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The following is a transcript of Amy Goodman's interview with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Rose Ann DeMoro from the California Nurses Association on Democracy Now!
Democratic lawmakers are close to unveiling new legislation on healthcare reform they hope to pass before the August recess. On Monday, House Ways and Means Committee Chair Charles Rangel said Democratic Congress members are uniting around a plan that would include a mandate forcing employers to offer insurance or face penalties. Uninsured Americans would also face fines if they chose not to purchase coverage. The proposal would also offer a public "exchange," where consumers could shop for insurance online. Rangel says the exchange would offer a government-run public insurance program. The plan would also impose new restrictions on insurance companies barring the denial of coverage based on preexisting conditions. Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy has drafting a Senate proposal also centering around imposing mandates on employers.
President Obama is expected to host a group of Democratic Congress members at the White House today. The meeting comes one week after Obama said he would consider supporting a mandate-based approach to healthcare and the creation of a public insurance option.
On Monday, a group of Republicans wrote a letter to President Obama opposing public insurance, saying, quote, "Forcing free market plans to compete with these government-run programs would create an unlevel playing field and inevitably doom true competition." The letter was signed by all Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee except Maine Senator Olympia Snowe.
In their comments on healthcare, President Obama and Democratic leaders have focused on enormous healthcare costs that they say must be reined in. But their plans would still leave much of the US healthcare system in the hands of for-profit insurance companies that critics say account for most of the unnecessary spending.
Amy Goodman: I'm joined now by two guests. In Washington, DC, independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Earlier this year, he introduced the American Health Security Act of 2009, which would establish a single government program to guarantee healthcare to all Americans, including the 46 million currently uninsured. Senator Sanders is the longest-serving independent member of Congress in American history.
And joining us from St. Louis, Missouri, is Rose Ann DeMoro. She is executive director of the California Nurses Association, which has been a leading advocate for single-payer healthcare. Last week, she took part in a meeting arranged by Senator Sanders with Senator Max Baucus, who has excluded single-payer voices from the pivotal Senate Finance Committee hearings on healthcare reform.
Let's start with you, Rose Ann DeMoro. This issue of the exclusion of single-payer voices -- what came out of the meeting?
Rose Ann DeMoro: Well, it was interesting going into the meeting. We had protests. There were a series of protests in the Senate Finance health committee discussions, where registered nurses and physicians had basically walked out, spoke out, walked out, had been arrested. So there were thirteen people who were arrested. Because of that, Senator Sanders was able to actually achieve a meeting for us.
We have been -- basically, single-payer activists, which means basically people who think that we should have a more sane way of doing healthcare in this country, have been excluded. It's been this conspiracy of silence by the -- by Congress, by the Obama administration. And ultimately, you have all the institutional players at the table, but the people who are excluded are the people who are the voice of the people. So -- and I'm sorry for so much background, but going into this meeting--